What made dishonored 2's time travel level so good

Last fall, Dishonored 2 ripped me right out of my gaming funk. I tore through the game in two days, scouring every square inch of its wonderful setting, Karnaca. Dishonored 2’s brilliant self-assurance is compelling; I couldn’t stay away. Now, after the release of Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, I found myself craving a return lớn Dishonored 2.

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Many people have rightfully singled out Dishonored 2’s fourth mission, The Clockwork Mansion, as one of the game’s best. It’s a great màn chơi, rich with the kind of creativity that Arkane is known for. The game’s seventh mission, A Crack in the Slab, gets less attention. Dishonored 2 released shortly after Titanfall 2, whose time-travel themed mission Effect and Cause might have sầu stolen some of A Craông chồng in the Slab’s thunder. A Crack in the Slab might have sầu a similar premise to lớn Effect & Cause, but its combination of its themes and mechanics makes it stand out.

Where other fantasy games are content khổng lồ stay tethered to Tolkien’s traditional high fantasy realms with humans, elves, dwarves, và dragons, Arkane forges its own path. Dishonored’s fantasy world is chất lượng, taking place in an industrial age powered not by coal and steam, but by whaling. In the first game you play as Corvo Attano, bodyguard và lover of a murdered empress who has to rescue the princess Emily, your daughter, finally installing her on the throne to lớn rule Dunwall.

In Dishonored 2, you can play as either Corvo or Emily. Delilah Copperspoon, a malevolent witch, usurps the throne, turning one of you lớn stone & causing the other to lớn flee khổng lồ the l& of Karnaca to lớn find a way khổng lồ save the empire. Your journey khổng lồ discover Delilah’s weakness and find a way to stop her eventually takes you to lớn a mansion owned by one Aramis Stilton.



Delilah’s conspirators are aước ao the rich and powerful, and Stilton is no exception. Stilton is a mining baron, and his mansion is a huge part of Karnaca’s Dust District. Three years ago, after a mysterious incident, Stilton became a recluse và closed his trang chủ off from outsiders. The only way in is through a complicated lock built by one of the game’s earlier foes, Kirin Jindosh. Dishonored 2 dedicates an entire mission just khổng lồ getting past the loông chồng. Once you vày so, you thua all of your supernatural powers, và A Craông xã in the Slab begins.

At the start of the mission, Stilton’s mansion is in disrepair. The ruinous Dust District felt crowded, but Stilton’s mansion is empty. As you pick through its bones, you find fragments of a happier past—a great staircase, a decaying museum.

Anyone who has played Dishonored knows how fun it can be khổng lồ poke around for loot to lớn pilfer, but the opening area of Stilton’s mansion is largely picked over. In the upstairs mining museum, for instance, a safe has been opened và emptied. As you explore, hoping khổng lồ find something worth taking, most of the mansion is closed off, save for one room.

There you find Stilton himself, babbling about whales in the mines. He tells you that you must insize the empress that something terrible is happening. When you try lớn talk to lớn hyên, time freezes and the Outsider appears. The Outsider (who’s basically Gerard Way if he were a bored god) gives you a timepiece, a tool that lets you observe sầu the year 1849 through its crystals and jump between the 1849 và Dishonored 2’s present year of 1852.


As always, the Outsider’s instructions are cryptic, simply urging you to lớn see for yourself what happened three years ago. A quick tutorial popup tells you everything you need lớn know, so you press the button & leap baông chồng to lớn the past. Stilton isn’t in this spot in the past, but through the timepiece’s crystals, you can still see hyên ổn muttering away at the piano. In 1849, the mansion is well-kept & expensive-looking. There are chairs around the now-immaculate piano, as if Stilton is expecting guests for a musical performance.

While many games are content lớn simply tell you what’s up, or drench the world in pointless graffiti, Dishonored 2 uses its levels as a means of characterization. It invites you to lớn explore its world, examining the little details & deriving your own conclusions from that. As you explore the past mansion, you come across an instrument tuner who asks a passing guard if Stilton plays music. The guard says he doubts it; he thinks Stilton is a man who buys instruments for appearances.

If you explore this exhibition room, which is just below Stilton’s master bedroom, you’ll find a little space in the baông xã where multiple instruments và instrument parts are stored. There’s a workbench here, &, while nothing is explicitly stated, it seems as though Stilton once enjoyed repairing pianos. In 1852, a mattress and scraps of food are located in the little loft above sầu the workbench, và Stilton spends his time at the piano. While the guards might think Stilton too aloof khổng lồ play music, privately, it seems to lớn be an important part of his life.

You learn more about Stilton as you go further into lớn the mansion. A letter to lớn his staff shows his taste in food but laông chồng of knowledge on the subject. He references amazing foods he’s had elsewhere, rather than rattling off a các mục of fancy dishes, showing himself as someone perhaps a little out of his depth. The Duke has written Stilton a letter expressing a desire to lớn know more about Stilton’s interest in improving the working conditions for miners, demonstrating a clear contrast between Stilton’s intentions in 1849 & the Duke’s in 1852. Stilton’s diary contains a series of entries where he fusses over his appearance; apparently, a servant criticized the coal dust underneath his nails, indicating a man of lower station, và Stilton spent several days embarrassed by this remark.


Compared lớn the other corrupt và arrogant members of Delilah’s conspiracy, Stilton seems like a good man, if something of a coward. He cares, deeply, about doing the right thing, but he’s concerned with his appearance, earnestly attempting khổng lồ live up lớn the station he’s found himself in. Later in the cấp độ, the player character remarks that they’ve sầu heard Stilton had been a miner. Karnaca’s current state is due to lớn the Duke’s greed; Stilton was a good, caring man in a difficult circumstance, a victlặng of Delilah’s plot, his mind broken by the mysterious incident in 1849.

In addition khổng lồ conveying character information, these details add ambiance lớn A Craông xã in the Slab. Dishonored is telling a story, và everything in the game works in service khổng lồ the story being told. A Craông xã in the Slab’s ambiance encourages you khổng lồ linger, an action not seen in other mediums. In a game, you can wander around a room, taking in the vibes, considering the space and its occupants. You can become part of the space, so a game, if it wants to lớn tell stories well, must make use of that space to lớn tell its story.

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This ambiance và story also have sầu an impact on your gameplay. Dishonored games judge their players at the kết thúc, the decisions you make impacting the game’s final scenes.Kill too many people in Dishonored 2, và your character may kết thúc up ruling Karnaca with an iron fist. Therefore, it’s best to be armed with as much knowledge as possible, because this informs how you play, which determines what the ending will be.

It doesn’t always work perfectly; I’ve never been a big fan of being graded on my performance, and, according to lớn one of my friends who’s a game designer, it’s extremely difficult for games khổng lồ determine player intent. I killed a few people in Dishonored 2 because they’d committed murder and no one else could stop them; this meant my game ended with Corvo ruling as a tyrant, where I felt he was a one-man force of justice attempting to save sầu a vulnerable populace from an army of superhuman murderers.


Even though Dishonored’s morality system isn’t perfect, it’s fascinating. Dishonored has always played with morality in interesting ways—in the first game, every non-lethal fate was worse than death. Two brothers get their tongues ripped out & are forced khổng lồ work in their own mines, the high overseer is branded a heretic & brutally tortured by his own men, a woman is sent khổng lồ live with her stalker. It was a great way khổng lồ toy with the comtháng binary perception around stealth game morality that suggests lethal is bad & nonlethal is good. To play a Dishonored game well, you have sầu khổng lồ consider what the best action is, rather than resorting to lớn a simplistic moral choice.

While Dishonored 2 falls inlớn the lethal/nonlethal paradigm, it fits with the characters presented. In the case of A Craông xã in the Slab, how you giảm giá khuyến mãi with Stilton impacts the entire timeline, in ways that become clear as you play through the level. Your actions have sầu consequences, and the màn chơi kiến thiết of A Crachồng in the Slab helps players make that decision by inspiring them khổng lồ scour the cấp độ & learning everything they can about Stilton.

A Craông xã in the Slab’s cấp độ design also encourages players lớn employ the level’s quality timepiece mechanic, the tool by which all of this change occurs. Stealth level thiết kế can be especially difficult because players have a limited mix of tools, and the goal is always the same: stay out of sight. For a stealth game khổng lồ be successful, it must attempt to offer as much variety as possible. A Craông xã in the Slab introduces variety through the use of the timepiece, which lets you travel through time, and, more importantly, observe the timelines before you bởi.

Stealth games are generally built around observation. You look và listen for guards, while the guards look & listen for you. Arming yourself with information about your surroundings is key khổng lồ success. In Stilton’s mansion, the magic powers you’ve sầu relied on in all previous levels no longer work, & the level kiến thiết offers little cover to blochồng the guards’ line of sight. Since the timepiece lets you watch the alternate timeline, you can catch a guard’s attention in 1849, jump khổng lồ 1852, watch hlặng run to lớn an out-of-the-way place in 1849, then jump back khổng lồ 1849 and choke hyên out.

The timepiece is also used to lớn solve sầu puzzles. Shortly after you get the timepiece, you’re left trying khổng lồ leave sầu the room you entered. You came in through the ceiling, but without your blink ability, you can’t simply teleport back out. Upon further inspection, you’ll discover that the door is locked in 1849, but unlocked with a grate about two feet in front of it in 1852. This means that you can walk into lớn a small space between where the door ought lớn be và where the grate is, jump through time, và find yourself on the other side of the locked door, with no grate in your path. This lesson will stay with you throughout.

Another puzzle involves trying khổng lồ clear a path blocked by a giant bust. In 1849, a note left behind on the statue warns that it’s unsteady và too heavy for a single person to move. If you knoông xã the bust over in 1849, breaking it, it’s no longer blocking the passage in 1852, allowing you lớn advance through the level. This reinforces another lesson: your past actions change the future.

The entire level is lượt thích this, full of clever, mind-bending puzzles & actions that ripple throughout the past and present. The complexity of the puzzles increases; as the 1852 mansion opens up to you, the guards of 1849 become more difficult khổng lồ avoid. Pretty soon, you’re leaping through time, hoping a guard didn’t see you, only lớn be faced with a swarm of angry bloodflies in 1852. Tension is punctuated by eureka moments, in which you solve time puzzles that leave you feeling like a genius. All of this builds to the ultimate choice. Do you kill Aramis Stilton, unwilling conspirator to Delilah’s plans, or vày you spare him?

In 1849, Aramis Stilton was supposed to lớn attkết thúc a meeting. Whatever happened to hyên ổn there left hlặng broken by 1852. I chose mercy, choking hyên out so that he wouldn’t make his appointment.

Everything changed.

This 1852 was brvà new. Rather than the derelict mansion that reflected its broken host, the new timeline reflected the mind of a man who had not suffered from Delilah’s plot. Stilton missed his meeting, và it saved his mind. This choice influences the game in some profound ways; Stilton becomes your accomplice in the fight against Delilah. I knew I had made the right choice, regardless of what the post-mission results screen said.

A Craông xã in the Slab spills its inhabitants’ secrets, while the mechanics và màn chơi thiết kế choices explore the level’s time travel theme while presenting new stealth challenges. A Craông chồng in the Slab doesn’t possess the lightning-quick roller coaster of Titanfall 2’s Effect và Cause, but it rewards curiosity and responds to your actions in meaningful, game-changing ways. Everything matters, nothing is pointless. It’s as perfect a level as they come, và it’s the reason Dishonored 2 deserves your attention.

GB Burford is a freelance journalist & indie game developer who just can’t get enough of exploring why games work. You can reach hlặng on Twitter at
or on his blog. You can support hyên và even suggest games khổng lồ write about over at his Patreon.

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